There are many ways of looking at the presidency of the United States. I remember an interview that Tom Brokaw once had with George H. Bush when they walked through the White House. They were looking at pictures of past presidents such as Abraham Lincoln. Brokaw asked Bush about these past leaders of our country to which Bush responded they have all had their trial by fire. He meant of course that every presidency has faced some kind of an enormous challenge. Bush said that he had not yet had his trial by fire but in looking at television pictures after the first day of,” Desert Storm,” he looked tired, pale and edgy.
Perhaps he was facing his trial by fire.
Differently, Thomas Freedman in a recent column about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico suggested that this could be a trial by fire or better yet a 9-11 for Barak Obama. He meant that as past presidents such as his predecessor there comes a defining moment. For George W. Bush it was not only 9-11 but Katrina. Freedman’s point was that 9-11 is more than an event it symbolizes a critical moment in history and perhaps in people’s lives who have their own mini 9-11.
9-11 symbolizes on many levels a time for leadership to emerge and time for us to take advantage of an opportunity for transformation and change even though we may be standing in ashes waist deep.
Politics and history present 9-11 moments for many leaders. Meaning that after 9-11 there is an opportunity for the country to move into a new direction. The BP oil spill could be an opportunity for us to move and end our oil addiction as a country. It could be a way to utilize efforts to push our country toward real solutions in this area. Tim Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics said, ”Being a leader means telling the rest of us what’s our job, what we need to do to make this a transformative moment.”
You can call it a transformative moment or you can call it a redemptive moment but all of us personally have our own 9-11’s. It may be a health crisis, job loss, trouble with your teenage son or daughter, even your own marriage could be at the point of 9-11. However, if Freedman is right, and if our theology is correct all of this can become a transforming moment that will lead us into a better direction and make us all better people.
There is an old saying that says, if someone gives you lemons, make lemonade. In other words 9-11 moments are perhaps a turning point to change, for personal growth and for enrichment. You may learn more about yourself, your weaknesses and strengths than you ever knew when you are in a crisis and life seems to be going south.
Some people don’t respond in any way at all but to curl up in the fetal position. They would rather curse the darkness than light a candle. That is just another way to squander your 9-11. Our faith tells us that we should not give in or give up or surrender. I am not recommending stoicism as an answer but I am saying that Jesus always pointed people who were in dire straits to a new direction. He gave them support, he listened to them and they found strength to be different. They found ways to heal and to change. Perhaps we spend too much time not really taking a deep look at our own failures or the things that are lacking in our lives that need to be addressed. Some people can hide forever, but in the end you have squandered your 9-11.